Question Hour is an important parliamentary practice in the legislatures of many countries, including India. It is a scheduled period during the parliamentary sessions when Members of Parliament (MPs) or Members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) can ask questions from the government and its ministers. The primary purpose of Question Hour is to hold the government accountable for its actions, policies, and expenditures.
In India, the Question Hour is a prominent feature of both the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), the two houses of the Indian Parliament. It is held on most working days of the parliamentary session.
Here’s how the Question Hour works in the Indian Parliament:
- Notice Period: MPs are required to give advance notice of the questions they intend to ask during the Question Hour. This notice period allows ministers to prepare well-researched and accurate responses. Questions can be broadly categorized into three types:
- Starred Questions: These questions require an oral answer, and the MP must be present in the House to ask a supplementary question.
- Unstarred Questions: These questions receive written answers, and no supplementary questions can be asked.
- Short Notice Questions: These are urgent questions that can be asked with shorter notice if the Speaker allows.
- Selection of Questions: The presiding officer (the Speaker in Lok Sabha and the Chairman in Rajya Sabha) selects the questions to be taken up during the Question Hour. Due to time constraints, not all questions can be addressed, and the selection is made based on various criteria, such as relevance and importance.
- Asking Questions: During the Question Hour, the Speaker or Chairman calls the name of the MP who has submitted the starred question. The MP then reads out the question and awaits a response from the relevant minister.
- Minister’s Response: The concerned minister provides an answer to the question on the floor of the House. For starred questions, the MP who asked the question is allowed to ask a few supplementary questions related to the original question and the minister’s response.
- Time Limit: Each question and its supplementary questions have a time limit to ensure that as many questions as possible are addressed during the allotted Question Hour time.
- Accountability and Transparency: Question Hour provides an opportunity for MPs to scrutinize the government’s policies, decisions, and administrative actions. It enhances the transparency of the government’s functioning and allows MPs to raise concerns and seek clarifications on various issues.
Question Hour is an essential aspect of parliamentary democracy as it allows elected representatives to fulfill their role of oversight and scrutiny of the executive branch. It strengthens democratic principles by ensuring that the government is accountable to the people through their representatives in the legislature. It also serves as a platform for the exchange of ideas and information between the government and the opposition, leading to informed debates and discussions on critical matters of public interest.